SECOND TIME LUCKY?

O’Beirne confident of becoming Connacht IFA chairman

John O’Beirne has claimed that a fellow Co. Roscommon farmer with an “axe to grind” against him was responsible for him being deemed an invalid candidate for the position of Connacht chairman of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

  When nominations for the position closed on Wednesday, February 3, Mr O’Beirne was the only candidate and seemed certain to assume the position.

  However, a meeting of the IFA rules and privileges committee determined that he was ineligible for the role. An IFA rule states that a candidate must be a full-time farmer, and Mr O’Beirne was a postman and part-time farmer at the time of being nominated.

  Mr O’Beirne said that he was in the process of leaving his job as a postman, and said that someone with “a gripe” against him was responsible for the controversy that has arisen.

  “Once I became a candidate, I should have been a full-time farmer,” he said. “There probably would have been no heed passed, but I was reported for it.

  “I was reported by a farmer down (from Co. Roscommon).

  “He is a former member of IFA. He possibly wouldn’t be my best friend either. He had an axe to grind with me and with the IFA, but I believe he got help and was coached into doing this.”

  Mr O’Beirne said the letter (of opposition) was written to John Hanley, the Roscommon IFA chairperson, and passed on to the the association’s headquarters.

  Mr Hanley has confirmed that he received a letter informing him about the issue with Mr O’Beirne’s candidacy, and that he forwarded it to HQ.

  “I received a letter to say that there is criteria for three positions for which you have to be a full-time farmer to represent the IFA – president, deputy president and regional chairperson,” he said.

  “I don’t make up the rules.”

  After Mr O’Beirne was deemed invalid for the position, the selection process recommenced. The Strokestown man remains determined to fill the vacancy.

  On Wednesday, the 55-year-old took leave of absence from his job as a postman and said that the IFA now deemed him an eligible candidate.

  When he ran the first time, the Roscommon and Leitrim IFA branches supported him for the position, and he says now that he is confident they will back him again.

  In any case, he believes the requirement to be a full-time farmer is an unfair one because many in the farming community require extra jobs to supplement their farm income.

  “I always considered myself a full-time farmer, but I worked outside of the farm gate,” said Mr O’Beirne.

  “We are full-time farmers but, because of the area we live in and the size of our farms, we have no choice only to work outside the farm to stay viable. At least 80 per cent of farmers, maybe more, have to do that.”

  Mr. O’Beirne said that he was trying to make that point to the IFA.

  “Do they want to just represent full-time farmers, or are they happy to take the membership from the fella who has a job along with his farm?” he asked. 

  “Are they just taking his membership to prop up an organisation that will represent full-time farmers? That seems to be the message they are giving out. That is why I am looking for this position. That needs to be highlighted.”

  The vote to fill the vacacny will take place at the end of next month.